Vigil for victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting

On 28 October 2018, I attended a vigil on Cable Street with Haringey Labour Party comrades to express solidarity with Jewish brothers and sisters in the wake of the terrorist attack on Pittsburgh Synagogue in the US.

Cable Street is a symbol for resistance against fascism and hatred towards Jews and other minorities. 82 years ago, people of the East End came together and stood shoulder to shoulder with the local Jewish community to resist the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley. The lessons of that resistance ring true today as we are faced with the same threat across the Western world. The far right and neo Nazi groups have a new found voice with Donald Trump in the White House.

The vigil was moving and poignant. A number of community activists and religious figures from the Jewish community spoke passionately about the need to stand united and not be divided by hatred.

Labour’s NCC Elections: Rebuilding Confidence Starts Here

By Cecile Wight, Stephen Marks, Annabelle Harle, Susan Press, Khaled Moyeed and Gary Heather (Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance backed candidates for the NCC)

At this year’s Conference, there was a rule change to expand the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) with 14 additional members of whom six will be voted directly by CLPs. The NCC is the Party’s final arbiter of serious disciplinary cases against Party members. Operating quasi-judicially with barristers appearing before it and bound by strict rules of evidence, it has the power to expel members

We are standing to be CLP representatives on Labour’s NCC. We are honoured to have received the backing of left organisations within the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance. We are socialists and have consistently backed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The NCC has been described by members as “Kafka-esque” in the way that disciplinary matters were handled. There was perceived to be a ‘purge’ of the left wing amongst the ordinary Party membership who had been deprived of their democratic right to vote in the 2016 leadership election. The snap election of CLP representatives is an opportunity to rebuild confidence in Labour’s disciplinary procedures. This should begin by fully implementing the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report.

Baroness Chakrabarti recommended that the Labour Party should urgently appoint an in-house counsel. The appointment of Gordon Nardell QC as in-house counsel is a welcome move. In a large organisation such as the Labour Party with over half a million members, it is inconceivable not to have an in-house lawyer to provide initial advice and instruct external lawyers as and when necessary.

Baroness Chakrabarti proposed a framework for clear and transparent procedures for dealing with allegations. She recommended drawing up and adopting a clear complaints procedure which explains with sufficient clarity things such as how and to whom complaints are to be made and how long each stage of the process is likely to take.

How often have you heard that a person had found out about their suspension from the Party through the media? Well, Baroness Chakrabarti has stated that this is a breach of data protection law. She emphasised that the subject of a complaint must be informed immediately and any press enquiries kept to a minimum. She noted that media publicity can be a punishment in itself.

Baroness Chakrabarti noted the power of interim suspensions which might have been weaponised and used too readily in the past. She compared this to civil and criminal courts which do not grant interim injunctions or issue arrest warrants every time a complaint is made. She questioned whether so many members should have been suspended instead of being told that they were being investigated. She recommended that the power of interim suspension should no longer be vested in the NEC, but instead be vested in the NCC.

Baroness Chakrabarti also recommended the use of creative sanctions such as a warning, requiring an apology or public warning or reprimand. In addition, we believe that the use of mediation between members may be suitable in appropriate cases to resolve disputes. We see resolving disputes and conflicts between members as a way of maximising unity and effectiveness in the Party.

CLP representatives have an important role to play in rebuilding confidence in the NCC. We are socialist grassroots Labour Party activists and have decades of experience of activism in the Party between us. We have all been elected by members to serve them in different positions within the Party. We are close to members and would be a powerful voice within the NCC representing them. Our members are the backbone of our movement.

We want the NCC to be a body which is trusted by our mass membership. It must be completely transparent, consistent and timely in its decision making. We will apply due process and principles of natural justice to ensure that members are treated fairly. We believe that the right to a fair hearing is a human right and our members should not be deprived of it.

We have demonstrated our commitment to our movement’s values as campaigners, Party officers and three of us are elected Councillors. We bring a strong set of skills to the NCC to strengthen our Party so that we can work together to make Jeremy Corbyn our next Prime Minister.

The deadline for CLPs to make their six nominations is 28 October 2018. Members should speak to their CLP Secretary to ensure that nominations to the NCC is put on the agenda of a GC or an all-members meeting.

Why I am standing for Labour’s NCC

(First published in the Labour List on 16 October 2018)

This year, Labour Party conference approved the creation of 14 additional members on the party’s national constitutional committee (NCC), six of whom will be voted in directly by CLPs across the country. I am standing to be a CLP representative on Labour’s NCC. In May 2018, I was elected as a councillor in Haringey after campaigning successfully against the mass privatisation of council homes in the form of the Haringey development vehicle. Outside politics, I am a solicitor specialising in dispute resolution and a proud father of two children.

My personal journey has shaped my passion for public service. I moved to Haringey with my family from Bangladesh at the age of 12. I lived in temporary accommodation for many years, moving to different parts of Haringey until we were allocated a permanent council house. After graduating with a Law degree, I worked in Haringey as a community organiser in the early years of my career, delivering projects to improve community cohesion and reduce crime. I set up Haringey Faith Forum, delivered a project to rehabilitate ex-offenders and worked on initiatives to address knife and gun crime.

I left Haringey to pursue my dream to become a litigation and arbitration lawyer. I worked at two leading international law firms in the City of London, and I’ve now set up my own legal practice – but have always remained active in my community. I served as a trustee of Haringey Race and Equality Council and as a governor of my local primary school, for example.

Activism was constantly in my blood, so it was a natural progression that I joined the Labour Party in 2010. I campaigned in my local ward helping to elect three Labour councillors where there was only one before. Local members elected me to serve as branch chair and I helped to rejuvenate the local party in the early years of Ed Miliband’s leadership. I continued to serve in different capacities including as BAME officer of Tottenham CLP.

I knew Jeremy Corbyn from when he used to visit my secondary school, which was in his constituency. I knew of his activism to support human rights causes, whether for Palestinians or the former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands. It was a no-brainer for me when he stood for the Labour leadership in 2015, and I was proud to speak on behalf of his candidacy when my CLP met to nominate its leadership candidate in 2015. Like Jeremy, I had been a socialist well before it was fashionable.

I am running for a place on Labour’s NCC because I would like to be a powerful voice representing ordinary members, who are the backbone of our movement. I have always been close to party members who had elected me to serve them in various positions at branch and constituency level. It is now time for me to step up and serve the party at national level. My skills as a dispute resolution lawyer will certainly be helpful as the NCC is a semi-judicial body. I am familiar with principles of natural justice.

My background as a thirty-something Muslim who grew up in an inner city council home is relevant. Internal Labour Party structures have not always been representative of our diverse membership, even though our party has long been the natural home of ethnic minorities. In 1945, 26 out of 28 Jewish MPs were Labour members, and in 2010, the proportion of ethnic minority votes for Labour were more than double that amongst the white population. I have lifted these statistics from page six of the Shami Chakrabarti Report, which brings me nicely onto how I would like to see the NCC transformed to make it fit to serve Labour’s mass membership. This process should begin by fully implementing the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report. I am glad to see that some of the recommendations have already been implemented such as the appointment of a general counsel.

The NCC has to work extremely hard to regain the confidence of members. It must be transformed so that it is completely transparent. Members of the NCC should act independently without being unduly influenced by prevailing media narrative on various issues. Billionaire media barons are not really friends of the Labour Party.

The NCC has been described by members as “Kafka-esque” in the way that disciplinary procedures were handled. The body should win the hearts and minds of our members to ensure that there is never ever a repeat of the ‘left-wing purge’ that deprived far too many members of their democratic right to vote in the 2016 leadership election.

I am honoured to have received the backing of comrades in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Labour Representation Committee, Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Momentum, Labour Briefing Co-op, Jewish Voice for Labour and Red Labour. I would be grateful for nominations from CLPs by 28th October 2018.

Running to be on Labour’s National Constitutional Committee

I am standing to be a CLP representative on Labour’s National Constitutional Committee. I am honoured to have received the backing of the following Left organisations:

– Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
– Labour Representation Committee
– Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
– Momentum
– Labour Briefing Co-op
– Jewish Voice for Labour
– Red Labour

As a solicitor specialising in dispute resolution, I have important skills which will be useful to the NCC, a semi judicious body. I am a solid Corbynite and have been a socialist before it was fashionable. I am a staunch anti-racist campaigner and successfully campaigned in Haringey against the privatisation of council homes.

I would be grateful for your CLP’s nomination by 28 October.

Reception by Canary Wharf Group for Councillors of Bangladeshi Origin – 8 October 2018

Canary Wharf Group invited me along with elected Councillors of Bangladeshi origin from across the country. The event began with the question from the host: “How many Councillors are there of Bangladeshi origin?“. People were offering different guesses. I pitched in with an ambitious figure of 250. The right answer was clearly “Not enough!” as one audience member quipped. In fact, there are now 112 Councillors of Bangladeshi origin up and down the country. There are three MPs of Bangladeshi origin with Baroness Pola Uddin as the only member of the House of Lords with Bangladeshi heritage.

While the Bangladeshi community has come a long way, they are still under-represented in politics. There isn’t a high profile Bangladeshi political figure in the main political parties. In comparison, politicians with Pakistani and Indian heritage have fared better with the obvious examples being Sadiq Khan, Sajid Javid and Priti Patel (before her fall from grace). Politicians from Bangladeshi heritage need to get better at ‘politicking’ to climb up the greasy pole ensuring that they do not fall down like Priti Patel.

Back to the reception, it was indeed a nice gesture from Canary Wharf to recognise the achievements of Councillors of Bangladeshi origin. As I posted my pictures on social media, many friends commented that Canary Wharf needed to do more to empower young Bangladeshis and create career opportunities for them. This is true, because Canary Wharf is situated in Tower Hamlets with some of the most deprived areas in the country. Perhaps someone from Canary Wharf reading this blog will take note!

Labour Party Conference 2018

Tottenham Labour Party members elected me to be one of their delegates at Conference. This meant that I had to be in the Conference hall on the morning of the first day of Conference (Sunday 23 September) to vote to decide which priority motions Conference will debate. At the crack of dawn, I picked up my fellow delegates from different points in Tottenham. After dealing with a slightly deflated tyre in my car, I drove as fast as I could and ensured that we were in Liverpool and in the Conference hall by 10.00am.

This was the biggest Conference in Labour Party’s history with a record number of party activists from across the country. The debates in the Conference hall were engaging and the atmosphere electrifying. On the first day of Conference, there was a passionate debate about a rule change to how sitting MPs would need to seek re-selection.

Currently, 50%+1 of all branches and affiliates in any constituency would need to vote to trigger a sitting MP. This means that there would need to be a negative campaign against a sitting MP. It also meant that an MP had a ‘job for life’ and that it was extremely difficult to trigger those MPs overly critical of the Corbyn leadership. The current system was described by a comrade as ‘Primark’. Most delegates wanted an open selection in every constituency, which was described as ‘Harrods’. However, the rule change proposed by Labour’s NEC can be described as ‘Marks & Spencer’ as it was a half way house between the current system and open selection. That is, only 33% of branches or affiliates needed to vote to trigger a selection where there is a sitting Labour MP. In the end, Labour members voted for ‘Marks & Spencer’!

The highlight of Conference was when comrade Colin Monehan from Harlow moved a motion on Palestine. The atmosphere in the hall was absolutely electric. The Conference hall became a sea of Palestinian flags. Colin spoke passionately to rapturous applause. His motion was followed up my ordinary delegates speaking up for Palestinian human rights and Jeremy Corbyn announcing in his keynote speech on the final day of Conference that a Labour government would recognise Palestine on its first day.

I attended many fringe events organised by the likes of Labour Friends of Bangladesh (which serves the best food at Conference), Morning Star, Islamic Relief, Labour Friends of Palestine, Labour List and so on. It was soon time to head back to London after the Conference wound down. It did not feel like I had attended a Conference with dreary speakers, but a festival of ideas to transform Britain.

Turnpike Lane Strategy Group Meeting – 20 September 2018

Turnpike Lane is where my family and I have been going for the best part of the last three decades for buying halal meat, Bangladeshi fish and other Asian groceries. It also has a range of Asian restaurants giving it a unique flavour in the locality. There isn’t quite another place like it in Haringey. A resident described it as Haringey’s own ‘Brick Lane’ with reference to the number of eateries serving up dishes from the Indian sub-continent.

I was recently made co-chair of a strategy group to look at improvements to Turnpike Lane as it has been neglected over the years. The place looks a little run down and businesses have a number of other concerns that affect their trade. It may be compared to what Green Lanes was like and how it has now been transformed into a top destination for Turkish and Kurdish cuisine.

Turnpike Lane is in my ward and being co-chair of the strategy group gives me a real opportunity to give much needed TLC to the area so that it can become a destination of choice for people. I was pleased that a large number of business owners on Turnpike Lane attended the inaugural meeting of the strategy group. They contributed with many excellent ideas. It is now up to me and my colleagues in the Council to deliver. Watch the space. There are exciting times ahead!